Group Therapy

Group therapies are a kind of psychological therapy that takes place with a group of people together, rather than in a one on one setting.

Group therapies are a kind of psychological therapy that takes place with a group of people together, rather than in a one on one setting.

Group therapies are a kind of psychological therapy that takes place with a group of people together, rather than in a one on one setting. Much therapy and learning can be accomplished in this environment. Patients can learn so much from themselves should they share and take feedback from peers within a group. They can also be enlightened with a particular struggle by seeing how others handle them when faced with the very same issue.

There are different types of Group Therapies, but the most common of them used at Solace Sabah are: 

Self-Help Groups:

These are usually run by the addicts themselves and are places where addicts/patients share what’s going on for them on a daily basis with each other. These groups are known as meetings and feedback or “cross-talk”- which is talking to the member that’s speaking, is highly discouraged during the course of these meetings. This allows the addict complete freedom to share what is on his/her mind. They also come in the form of a fellowship beyond meeting times, and usually members meet up for coffees, dinners, lunches and various outings in their free time. It is here where a sponsor can also be found to help the patient/addict work a program of recovery. Examples of self-help groups or meetings are like “AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), GA (Gamblers’ Anonymous), SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous), OA (Overeaters Anonymous) and CODA (Codependent’s Anonymous)”, to name a few.

Interpersonal Group Psychotherapy (IGP):

This form of group therapy is based on the fact that interpersonal relations are necessary to regulate all aspects of living. IGP focuses on peer interaction, which occurs in the here and now. Patients understand more about themselves from how others perceive them. Processing usually occurs in these groups and can be the basis for much personal insight. Patients get the support from their peers when they face issues such as depression, desire to act-out in addiction and trauma to name a few. The therapist merely acts as a facilitator here and provides the therapy needed within the group, however, most of the work comes from peer feedback and interaction. Addiction is seen as an attachment disorder brought about by genetic and early developmental failures that lead to defective attempts at self-repair. Being as such, IGPs are necessary and vital for recovery as it enables addicts to trust and seek help from others rather than be defectively self-reliant. IGP also teaches addicts/patients to seek a newer “high” in relationships; rather than in the drug of their choice.

Cognitive Therapy Addiction Groups (CTAG):

The goal of this group is to teach patients how to change their thoughts from negative to positive ones. It can be applied to issues such as relapse prevention and harm reduction. The idea is to help members of the group to refrain from addictive behavior and cope more effectively. Much focus is given to the difficulties and addictive processes of members, which are processed through modeling and goal-orienting exercises. Group members are taught how to re-model their thoughts to suit a life of recovery as opposed to addictive “stinking thinking”, which promoted addictive lifestyles before treatment. Affect regulation, Crisis Management and Development of Relationships are subjects, which are given due assignments for patients to work on between the weekly sessions.

Modified Dynamic Group Therapy (MDGT)

This type of group therapy addresses the addict’s nature at self-regulatory and egoistic approach to self-medicating, which had resulted in active addiction. Using an interpersonal approach, it is designed to deflate these egoistic tendencies of the addict. It is a space where members can share similar experiences and lower the chances of isolation and shame, which had resulted from self-regulation. The group provides structure and goals for overcoming difficulties patients/addicts might be facing in early recovery. The group leader encourages its members to observe their peers and provide honest feedback through such observation so that each member is aware of certain defects in character and the shortcomings that follow. Honest expression of feelings and an acceptance of responsibility within a supportive environment, is how this group can be of therapeutic value to the addict/patient who participates in it.

Benefits of Group Therapy: 

1)     Universality -  Groups are made up of individuals with a common humanity. Members will find that their various struggles are share universally across the board. This raises self-esteem and eliminates isolation.

2)     Altruism – Members will find that they are capable of helping their peers reach personal awakenings, thus, embedding a sense of service / selflessness by helping their peers. In the long run, this sense of altruism can lay the blueprint for future interpersonal interactions.

3)     Instillation of Hope – People from various stages of recovery are placed together in one group, thus providing the newcomer with hope for the future as other people have managed to surpass difficulties beforehand.

4)     Imparting Information – Information is shared among members and this can be very helpful in improving and finding newer and more effective solutions for various presenting difficulties.

5)     Development of Socializing Techniques – It prepares patients to be confident in expressing themselves beyond the treatment setting by allowing them to practice effective communication skills within a supportive and safe environment.

6)     Imitative Behavior – By observing positive behavior, patients can see how others act and problem solve in a recovering manner, thereby mimicking that behavior until it becomes natural (“fake it till you make it”).

7)     Cohesiveness – Being a part of a cohesive group in problem solving will tap into our “herd-like” need to be part of the crowd, which can be very comforting and esteeming.

8)     Existential Factors – Speaking to others about their experiences can be a good reminder on what to accept and avoid in life. It gives one a clearer perspective on life itself.

9)     Catharsis – When patients tell their story in full, they’ll get relief from letting out all that “pent-up” stuff that had been troubling them for so long. Finally, they become open, free and honest human beings.

10)  Interpersonal Learning – Change, recovery and growth can only happen when feedback is processed and accepted. In group therapy, understanding one’s own behaviors from an external perspective has been very pertinent to recovery.

What can Group Therapies treat? 

1)     Addiction – Overcoming addiction is a group effort. The network of recovering addicts as well as the support they provide is imperative in early recovery. As addicts say to each other: “We’re here to love you before you can learn to love yourself.” The encouragement, accountability and support, which groups give to the recovering addict is at the heart of recovery itself.

2)     Anxiety – Learning from others how to overcome anxiety and sharing it can contribute to much healing from this ailment. Additionally, being able to communicate in groups relieves the isolationism and builds esteem and confidence in an anxious person.

3)     Depression – The catharsis, which groups provide, help to alleviate the negative emotions that contribute to depression (anger, shame, fear and guilt). Reaching out to others also removes the sense of isolation in an individual as help is always available.

4)     Eating Disorders – The support network can help individuals who are struggling with food. However, those who compare oneself to another, it can also be counter-productive.

5)     Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Talking to others when triggered by OCD is a good way to lessen the shame and isolationism of the disease. Solutions can be carved out in a group setting.

6)     Relationship Difficulties – If relating to others is difficult, groups can be a marvelous healing ground for much preparation for the outside world.

7)     Schizophrenia – Group therapies with fellow sufferers can help to alleviate difference among sufferers. Symptoms and solutions can be discussed; though, should paranoia result due to interaction with others, due counsel is needed privately.

8)     Self Harm – Meeting with others who share the same symptom can be very relieving. Sharing tendencies to self harm can be an opportunity to be less alone. Solutions can be attained from fellow members who have managed to recover from these tendencies.

Group Therapy Activities:

Groups are a great place to hold activities. When we observe children playing for instance, many of their games involve group participation and is highly enjoyable due to the interaction and the sense of belonging it brings. Hence, group therapy uses these very same rewards to enhance recovery in treating patients. Below are a number of activities frequently used in group therapy:  

·       Ice Breakers – Games and activities to relax the group before beginning the therapy.

·       Trust building activities – Activities that help members build trust with one another.

·       Psychological Exercises for Insight and Self Awareness – Exercises that encourage members to think in a certain way or identify why others would think in that way. For e.g., “Mirror Image”.

At Solace, group therapies are one of the most fundamental part of treatment. Clients have reported of having much healing as a result of participating in the daily (IGPs), where group as well as individual struggles are processed. It is the insight and awareness that envelopes a client/patient, which creates the changes that are necessary for a new life in recovery. Solace Sabah also employs an array of other group therapies, some of which have not been mentioned here such as Psychodrama, where group members use their peers as props to act out the visions of their own mind. Ultimately, group therapies remove the isolationism so often experienced in addiction.

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